Swatch®: Re-Booting the Brand’s Playful & Collectible Positioning to Attract New Market Segments via Co-Branding with Omega®

Swatch® and Omega®, sister brands under the giant Swatch Group, recently made headlines in both the horology and marketing worlds due to the global launch of its unprecedented co-branded collection called the Omega x Swatch Speedmaster MoonSwatch Collection® last March 23, 2022, just over a month ago. The MoonSwatch® is made of bioceramic (a unique mix of two-thirds ceramic and one-third material derived from castor oil) that looks very similar to the famous and iconic Moonwatch® by Omega®. 

The 11-series co-branded collection is a tribute to nine planets, plus the moon and the sun and has an affordable price point of only US$258 vis-a-vis Omega®‘s iconic Speedmaster Moonwatch® which sells at a minimum of US$6,600. The color of each model’s bioceramic case represents its corresponding planetary or celestial inspiration. Yellow represents the Sun, dark gray for Mercury, pink for Venus, green for the Earth, light gray for the Moon, red for Mars, khaki for Jupiter, taupe for Saturn, light blue for Uranus, blue for Neptune, and light gray with a burgundy dial for Pluto.

The 11-series Omega x Swatch Speedmaster MoonSwatch Collection®
The celestial inspiration of the 11-series collection

Branding Nerd has received some requests to provide its point-of-view regarding this launch since there seems to be some confusion on the motivations of the brands in agreeing to this unusual strategy.

But before we go further into this historic brand collaboration, let’s revisit the three concepts of co-branding, brand life cycles and market segmentation in our attempt to help us put some sense into this.

Co-Branding vs. Co-Marketing

In our very first blog that featured two brands, namely Red Bull® & Go Pro®, I discussed the difference between ‘co-marketing‘ and ‘co-branding‘.

Red Bull® and GoPro®: One of the most successful and enduring global co-marketing collaborations.

As I stated in that blog, according to Investopedia:

Co-branding is a marketing strategy that utilizes multiple brand names on a good or service as part of a strategic alliance. Also known as a brand partnership, co-branding (or “cobranding”) encompasses several different types of branding collaborations, typically involving the brands of at least two companies. Each brand in such a strategic alliance contributes its own identity to create a melded brand with the help of unique logos, brand identifiers, and color schemes.

Co-branding and co-marketing are similar concepts in that both involve partnerships between brands that seek to bolster their marketing efforts, but they differ in how they are executed. 

Co-marketing aligns the marketing efforts of two partners but does not result in the creation of a new product or service. Co-branding, by design, is based on the creation of a new product or service.”

Therefore, based on the above definitions, in the case of the ongoing collaboration between Red Bull® and Go Pro®, this falls under ‘co-marketing‘.

While in the case of Swatch® and Omega®, this falls under ‘co-branding‘.

The Six Cycles of a Brand and the Critical Sustaining Stage

In the concluding module three of the course “The Brand Architecture” I share with my students the six cycles of the life of a brand.

Lifted from Module 3 of ‘The Brand Architecture” course: The 6 Stages of the Brand or Product Life Cycle

The six cycles include:

  • Development
  • Introduction
  • Growth
  • Maturity
  • Saturation
  • Decline or Rebirth

The last three cycles, Maturity x Saturation x Decline or Rebirth, are what I refer to as the ‘Sustaining Stage‘. A brand’s behavior during the three cycles of its sustaining stage will determine its fate during the the sixth cycle.

The sixth cycle is the dreaded ‘Decline‘ stage. I always emphasize to my students that no brand is exempt from this stage. There are only two possible outcomes from this sixth cycle: either the brand becomes irrelevant and is eventually forgotten, or the brand goes through a re-boot in some way (even before reaching this stage) and lives to fight another day, which in some cases, can extend to several years, decades or even centuries.

Brilliant brands have successfully executed a variety of strategies that have helped them through the sustaining stage which have kept these brands fresh and current, allowing the brand to grow even stronger and larger, with a select few brands reaching iconic status.

Frappuccino®: A Market Segmentation Product Strategy of Starbucks®

An example I always share with my students during the Brand Architecture course is the launch of the Frappuccino® back in 1995 by iconic brand Starbucks®.

The Frappuccino® of Starbucks®: A market segment expansion product strategy of the brand

Through their market research in the early 1990’s, Starbucks® discovered a critical consumer insight: that they were not attracting the young market segment into their stores. The brand was catering mostly to the older set and was not seen as a brand for the youth. The launch of the Frappuccino® was specifically designed to target this youthful segment twenty four years after Starbucks® was founded in 1971. I validated this with my millennial daughter and she confirmed that her first-ever encounter with Starbucks® in the 2000’s was with a Frappuccino®.

The results speak for themselves.

Starbucks was able to attract a new segment which allowed them to ‘live to fight another day‘. In fact, the brand has successfully extended its life for several more decades. In 2021, the brand celebrated its 50th anniversary since its founding and despite its age the brand remains as fresh, youthful and relevant today and doesn’t feel like a 50 year old brand at all.

The Sustaining Strategy for both Swatch® and Omega® thru Market Segmentation

At first glance, I already sensed that the MoonSwatch® launch was a market segment expansion play for both brands, similar to the Frappuccino® strategy, while still maintaining the fundamental brand positioning of both Swatch® and Omega® intact.

Mission to Mars: One of the more popular ones amongst the eleven timepieces in the MoonSwatch Collection®

Founded in 1983, Swatch® launched with the original slogan of “Always Different. Always New“. This creatively expressed the playful and collectible positioning of the brand. The brand name is a short for ‘second watch‘ which was a clear open hole in the highly competitive global watch market which the brand identified back in the 1980s.

“Everyone can wear a Swatch.

Our watches don’t fit a standard nor a frame. Some don’t even fit the laws of gravity! One thing they all fit is your personality. There is always space for you to shine when you wear a Swatch.”

Swatch® website
Omega® has been the Official Timekeeper of the Olympics since 1932

On the other hand, the initial slogan of Omega® in the early 1930’s was “Exact time for life.” This supported its heritage of innovation and precision. Football megastar Lionel Messi (although not Omega’s endorser) was once quoted: “In football as in watchmaking, talent and elegance mean nothing without rigour and precision.” It’s no coincidence that the word ‘Omega’ is Greek for greatness and perfection. This ‘precision‘ brand positioning of Omega has been largely cemented by two key RTBs (reasons-to-believe) of the brand, namely its association with NASA and the Olympics. Since 1965, the Omega Speedmaster® has been worn on each of NASA’s manned missions including all six moon landings. And since 1932, Omega® has served as the Official Timekeeper of the Olympic Games on 28 occasions.

Since 1965, Omega Speedmaster® has been worn on each of NASA’s manned missions including all six moon landings.
Since 1932, Omega® has served as the Official Timekeeper of the Olympic Games on 28 occasions.

Through this co-branded launch, the Omega x Swatch Speedmaster MoonSwatch® offers both the playfulness of Swatch® and the durability and precision of Omega®, a perfect sweetspot for its target market of largely males, probably in their 30’s to their 60’s.

The SpeedMaster MoonSwatch on the left have the exact dimensions as the Omega SpeedMaster on the right.

Speaking of precision, the MoonSwatch® honored the Speedmaster Professional’s exact dimensions. That means the MoonSwatch® measures 42mm in diameter and has the same 13.58mm height and lug width of 20mm. Therefore, there is no room left to doubt that the MoonSwatch® is indeed a Speedmaster®.

Three models from the 11-Series Omega x Swatch Speedmaster MoonSwatch Collection: Mission to Mars (red), Mission to the Moon (light gray), and Mission to Saturn (taupe)

Watch enthusiasts seem to welcome the launch.

In an interview last March 28, 2022 with Marketing Interactive, the Managing Director of Carousell Hong Kong, Kevin Huang, who is also a watch enthusiast, said, “…what made the success of the OMEGA x Swatch, also known as MoonSwatch, so great was due to the fact that two iconic brands having a deep history and a major fan base coming together to offer something that was fun, accessible and affordable to the masses.

Swatch was largely responsible for the revitalising the Swiss watch quartz crisis of the 70s and became a fashion icon in the 80s and 90s while the OMEGA Moonwatch is a historic and iconic watch that well, went to the moon,” said Huang.

“As such this collaboration hit the sweet spot in reaching a target customer base of both brands that spans across multiple age groups. It also targets a major group of customers who grew up with the Swatch brand, but grew out of them and are now in the luxury segment such as OMEGA

All eleven models displayed in selected Omega stores

For many in my age group, with the MoonSwatch, I am able to relive the joys of owning a swatch watch during my teen years while satisfying my need for luxury watch. For first time buyers, the MoonSwatch is a first taste of the Moonwatch and hopefully grows them to aspire to own the OMEGA Moonwatch at a later stage,” said Huang.

During its launch day last March 23, 2022, the MoonSwatch® had what I call its ‘iPhone moment’. Mobs of fans of the brands formed long lines outside Swatch® stores in several major cities including London, Singapore, Hong Kong and more. In some cases, like in the UK and Singapore, the police had to be called in to provide added security to help control the crowd.

Omega x Swatch Speedmaster MoonSwatch® having an ‘iPhone moment‘ in the London store of Swatch® on the day of the global launch

In the watch website chrono24, Italian watch enthusiast Donato Adrioli wrote: “I think there will only be winners emerging from this pairing: Swatch and Omega, who have drawn plenty of attention to themselves with these timepieces; watch lovers, who want a fun variation of their beloved Speedmaster; and people new to the world of watches, who will be pulled into the Speedmaster realm and will perhaps want to own a real Moonwatch one day. In my opinion, the Omega x Swatch MoonSwatch is a bold, brilliant piece of marketing that I think will move the entire watch world forward.” 

I agree.

Despite the fact that the brands announced that this collection will not be a limited edition, consumers still felt the urge to make the trek to the stores to be amongst the first to gain bragging rights of one of the first proud owners a MoonSwatch®.

Time will tell (pun intended), if this co-branded launch will truly help both brands ‘live to fight another day’. However, whatever the outcome, it is clear that the brands found an ‘open hole’ in the market today and have definitely captured the imagination of consumers around the world.

The battery cap at the back is in the image of the planet that the specific model is inspired by

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